Saturday, 15 November 2014

Dear Diary

Friend W and I are still attending a Friday afternoon class in our little market town.   The class is called 'Dear Diary' and each week our Lecturer takes a different diary she has researched in the County Records Office and we read it and discuss it.   It is fascinating stuff.

This week it was a diary kept by two young school boys just before their teenage years.   They lived with their Grandparents in the Vale of York on a small farm.  Their mother had died and their father was a grocer in Manchester, who paid infrequent visits to see them.

We know that later on they both joined their father in the grocery business and moved to Manchester, but here they are aged around 10 (one follows the other in the book, which was obviously kept safe in the farmhouse, where nothing was wasted, not even a simple book like this.)

The date is the early 1840's and so it has survived for over 150 years.   What a treasure, thanks to it being handed down through the family until finally a distant relative handed it in to the County Record Office for safe keeping.   Very thoughtful I would say, when many folk might have destroyed it.   It is invaluable.

There is a lot about the weather, the barley crop, the mowing and gathering in of the crops, the picking and storing of the apples, the milking of the cow, and a lot about what time it is (to the exact second).  But also there are various mathematical puzzles.   I can surmise that Grandmother (or Grandfather) made them do school work in the holidays, particularly maths puzzles, in preparation for their employment in a grocery shop.  They did both go as day boys to a local school.  Here is one puzzle (our tutor did give us the answer the boys gave!)

"How many drops of rain are there in a thundershower supposing that it stretches three miles in length and two in breadth, that during its whole continuance the drops fell at the rate of 1820 per minute upon each square yard and it lasted forty minute."

These diaries are so important when thinking about the past and they are wonderful to read through.   Another friend E, has kept a diary for many years - writing it daily and sticking into it pictures which are applicable to what she has written.  I do hope that in two hundred years somebody is reading that.   It takes some patience to keep it up.  I tried in and managed from Autumn 2010  until the beginning of Autumn 2011,   I have just found it on the bookshelf, so am off to make myself a cup of coffee and read what I did that year.   One of the four Christmas cakes I make each year (three as presents) is in the oven so I have to stay near.

Oh and, by the way, I wonder how many ten year olds could work out that puzzle these days without a calculator.



Philip said...

I think you have mentioned once or twice before about the diaries you have been looking at. What a fascinating idea for a course. It sounds really interesting.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

I have a couple of very old(1700s) cookery books. I bet they could form the basis for an interesting cookery course.
Love the idea of your course. I enjoy looking through old maps and manuscripts.
I couldn't have solved that maths question at any time of my life!

Elizabeth said...

Sounds fascinating -and I certainly could not work out the math problem in a thousand years.

I have my diaries from when I was thirteen...I dare not re-read them!

My husband's grandmother found a handwritten ship's captain's log from the 19th cent. - from the whaling days.
We eventually gave it to Northport Historical Society and hope some students use it as a first hand resource when writing reports etc.

I also have a little day book "Memorable Days for Me and Mine" belonging to my great grandmother Sarah Bayley. Her mother was born in 1800.
Always mean to write about it....

Weather turning bitter cold here after a long mild fall.
Well done going to exercise class.
I only manage to walk the dog!

Cro Magnon said...

I like the puzzle, but my brain refuses to co-operate.

The Weaver of Grass said...

So far no-one has admitted to being able to try that maths problem!

Anonymous said...

My father attended a one room schoolhouse in Nebraska. It only taught to the eight grade level and he could figure unbelievable sums in his head! The rest of his education came from life and he never met a book he wouldn't read. Those days are gone. Yup. Dee

Joanne Noragon said...

One grade school teacher used to close out the few minutes before the bell rang by having us do sums in our heads. When the bell rang we couldn't leave until one of us had the right answer. I wonder if that is done any more.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Dee and Joanne - indeed, those days are long gone I fear.

jinxxxygirl said...

Weaver i wasn't about to attempt that math problem BUT i knew hubby would be intrigued! After a little fiddling.... And i must admit here that he did use his phone to figure out how many square yards in a mile :) But then did the rest on paper. He came up with 422,400 raindrops! Is he close? Hugs! deb

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Hi Pat!
For seventeen years I kept a diary on the yearly wall calendar. Would buy calendars with a fairly large writing space for each day.
Speaking of old cookbooks, my 44 year old niece has taken a keen interest of late in having me teach her all the old dishes my mom used to make. She wants to pass them down someday to her two girls. A few weeks ago it was Hungarian stuffed cabbage, Fiddly and time consuming to make, but, oh! the memories. I can see them all surface on her face with the first bite she takes and she thinks a moment then says, Yup, tastes like Grandmom's"
Smiling at you from very cold Maryland, m & jb

Bovey Belle said...

I shall get my OH to work that maths problem out (without the calculator). He has a mathmatical brain and could have read pure maths at Uni. I have a . . . creative brain!

How fascinating to share these old diaries. I used to come across some intrigueing things at the Records office, when I was doing some research. I would call up a box of manuscripts and there would be some amazing things in there.

Virginia said...

I doubt many fifteen year olds could work it out, with a calculator AND google reminding them how many square years in a square mile!! Oh, and what proportion of an hour 40 minutes is! I'll do it offline and get back to you ... after my good friend Google has helped!!

Gwil W said...

Maybe they can't work out how many raindrops are in a cloud but their mums and dads just landed a robot on a comet. They will invent a computer programme to do the rainwater donkey work.

Heather said...

How fascinating to read that diary. I was once given a 10 year diary and did keep it going almost until the end until I realised it had become a record of the horrid years of our daughter's illness with ME. I hated reading it so stopped and sadly have never started to keep another.
I can imagine how wonderful your kitchen smells with that Christmas cake in the oven.

Rachel Phillips said...

The raindrops would be 1353031680000. I did it on the back of an envelope.

angryparsnip said...

Oh my goodness. What a wonderful class. Your Village is wonderful.
I have tried to keep a diary. But life seemed to get in the way. When I read some of my old ones filled with my life with my x I burned them.

cheers, parsnip

ChrisJ said...

I kept a diary from 1952 until 1957, the year I met my husband. A few years ago I shredded them all. Decided I didn't want my kids to read all my air-headed, boy crazy stuff. Interesting to read about the movies and TV shows though -- also my reaction on meeting my husband for the first time.

Anonymous said...

How facinating! I have kept a diary/journal off and on my whole life and my 23 year old daughter does too. Thanks for sharing this story.

Rachel Phillips said...

I kept a diary from my school days until a few years ago. I destroyed them all last year. Decided I didn't want anyone else going through them.

MorningAJ said...

I can't do the maths without a pencil and paper! I've never been able to do mental arithmetic. I'm slightly number blind and can't hold a figure in my head long enough to do the next stage of the calculation.

As for diary keeping, that's sort of what blogging is all about these days, isn't it? I used to keep one regularly when I was a kid, but I'm not sure I'd like anyone reading MY 10-year-old's versions.

The Weaver of Grass said...

,Jinxy - I can't remember how many it was but it was certainly over one million.
Rachel - love the idea of working it out on the back of an envelope/
Both of you - I have no intention of checking your figures!!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Lori - make sure they are passed on to someone - don;t let them be lost.
To everyone else - thanks so much for your comments. I do think that Gwil has a point, don't you?

Mac n' Janet said...

What a fascinating class that would be. I love diaries. I started keeping a rather strange one last year. It's a 5 year diary and you write one sentence in response to a prompt at the top of the page. Fun to see what I wrote the year before.